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Doug Leier, Published October 18 2011

Leier column: A safe hunt is a successful hunt

Fargo - North Dakota hunters have it pretty good. While a lot of conversations this fall relate to somewhat lower deer and pheasant populations, our wildlife numbers are still high compared to a few decades ago, when hunters applied for a first-drawing doe license just to have a chance to hunt in November, and a single morning rooster was something to crow about.

Safety depends on the actions of hunters. As a certified hunter education instructor, I join with hundreds of other volunteer instructors who stress that the need for safety trumps all other concerns.

First, treat every gun as if it were loaded. It’s that simple, no matter if it’s a toy gun or real gun, whether you’re in the field, at home or anywhere between. When transporting your gun or someone else’s, always assume and treat the gun as if it were loaded.

You’ll find trained law enforcement officers, hunters and gunsmiths will always “clear” any firearm, just to confirm with their own eyes, that to the best of their knowledge the gun is not loaded.

Secondly, never point or aim your firearm or bow at anything you don’t intend to shoot. This holds true in all scenarios. Even when shooting clay targets or sighting in at the rifle range, and even if you know, for a fact, that the gun is not loaded, never point a gun in a misdirected manner.

I began instructing my own kids at the age they were able to pick up a plastic toy gun, that they should never point a gun – even a toy – at any person.

Instructing a youngster or anyone grasping a gun to treat it as a loaded firearm is good practice. And we all know that practice creates the habits we’ll take into the field hunting, or any time guns of any caliber and make are present.

A final bit of advice as you pursue North Dakota’s bountiful game this fall.

I know how difficult it is to deal with buck fever, the adrenaline rush when a rooster busts out of the brush or cattails, or even when ducks and geese come into the decoys. Even the most seasoned hunters feel a rush that only hunting can provide. As you shoulder your gun, take a split second and make sure of your target and surroundings.

If for any reason something seems to have changed, like maybe you’re not sure where your partner is, then by all means pass up on the shot.

When the scope focuses and you see something beyond the buck, back off until you’re sure of the target and anything in front of and behind it. Just a split second may be all that is needed to make sure your hunt is both safe and successful.

Here’s wishing you and yours a successful – and safe – rest of the fall.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com